What I tell myself everyday.

To all the people watching, I can never ever thank you enough for the kindness to me, I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask is one thing, and this is.. I'm asking this particularily of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism - for the record it's my least favorite quality, it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen." - Conan 'O'Brien

November 4, 2011

Brick by Brick by Doodle Alley.

A student pointed me to this comic illustration by Stephen McCranie.

there are also these very interesting links.



August 21, 2011


I was over the weekend at the Singapore Toy, Games and Comic Convention helping out at the booth rented by the school where I am currently teaching.

I had a lot of chances to talk to a lot of different people. Students, professionals in other industries thinking of changing lines, and socially awkward teenagers and delusional nut cases.

And it was a shock for me, listening to a lot of people's misconception understanding of what is needed to succeed. A few came and expected to be able to just learn maya and able to make their own movies. Others want to working in VFX but not interested in knowing how it works.

There was another one who said, animation looks fun but she hates drawing and computers. well then.... But there were also fresh students in their 1st year in the different schools. And the enthusiasm a young fresh mind brings. I did consciously try to dissuade them  to get out while they still can and go into something more profitable. (I was half joking just to see their reaction).

It dawned on me that the most important thing that a person can bring to the table doing animation is isn't talent. It is mentality. It really is. More accurately, it is the HUNGER. The hunger to want to learn, to find out more. TO. IMPROVE.

And I think this is the defining quality that I think, will try differentiate those who talk and those who succeed. 

August 9, 2011

the economics of animation industry. part 1

I blogged about a very informative post from David Stripinis about the evolution of the VFX business and the current state of the industry.

I thought I investigate about the simple economics of the animation industry.1st, some background.....

We all know the most simple and basic economic model is based on supply and demand. There is a demand therefore there is a need to supply that demand. But also more importantly "they are merely 2sides of the same coin".

Supply creates demand because at the bottom, it IS demand. - Henry Hazlitt

And for this industry, this is the rule. The supply of the things we create/skills (shots, lighting, animation, coding etc..) are all that we have in offer for exchange for things that we want. (promotion, more money, etc.)

Similarly for studios it is reputation/money in exchange for shots and to be done for the vfx, cartoon, commercial, video games industries etc.....

And for the movie studios and games publishing companies, its bottomline is money for entertainment.

Of course the issue if you will is that we are working on a movie by movie basis or season by season for tv shows. Sometimes, several movies on top of one another if the going is good. The work may not be consistent depending on if your studio gets the project. And if the shows keep coming, the shots need to get delivered. Often with the release date already locked in.

The shows' release dates are locked in because they are competing against other movies to secure those seats in the cinemas. The cinema owners are assured that there are shows to fill the seats. And they all want hopefully the best selling movies to make the money.

For the movie studios, the more cinemas they get, the more chances they have to sell the tickets. Again provided the movie can sell. Hence the marketing budget for big budget movies are often huge in order to protect their investment. So for the artistes, once the release dates are set, they are often never moved.

This is the nature of the business

At the end, we are creating elements and vfx for the studios that are selling entertainment at $10 a pop to the guy of the street, his neighbour, etc. 

Similarly, animation studios pitch and create animation series. Sometimes with funding secured by the tv stations or networks. Sometimes with private investors. Toy makers etc... 

Unfortunately there are a finite number of hours programming on the TV station, finite number of cinemas and dates that the shows can run.
And there are ever increasing numbers of shows being pitched, in producing, trying to get sold etc.... all trying to compete for a finite number of options.

You would think that with ever increasing number of choices, the quality of shows out there will increase to better the competition. But as we know the inverse is true. The movie studios, the animation companies hedge their money on safe bets. Sequels, recognized names etc. It is the nature of humans to want to be safe. And this at the end of the day becomes the demand. When there is over supply, they will have to meet the demands of the networks, the movie studios etc. Which are all safe bets.

Of course on the other side is the technology of the business. The latest gizmo/CG techniques that are suppose to be on the cutting edge. Stuff that get published in siggraph papers. All these sell to the movie studios, the ability of the vfx studios and of course attempt to sell movies and games. "Come see the amazing ability to age a man digitally in reverse!" "Come see a whole planet done in the computer inhibited by blue cat like people" "See how we make a hollywood hunk turn into a 70 pound weaking." "Photoreal Realtime renders of trees and water, with everything destroyable!"

Reminds you of the circus. And it is quite a spectacle. I do not mean it in a negative connotation but more of the wonderment when u see it for the 1st time. And I think the technology plays a part in attempting to capture that feeling.Of course the quality of the game/movie is something completely separate.

The major differences between the different types of industry that you are in of course results in different demands and requirements.

And now the competition as well as career opportunities are worldwide.

Part 2 Coming soon.

June 22, 2011

Fixing it in Post (from david stripinis)

This is a really informative post by David Stripinis about the evolution of the VFX business in general to its current state. Please go over to his post to read the whole thing.

Some excerpts.
"But the real key moment was their second project as the new ILM - Raiders of the Lost Ark. Both Star Wars and Empire were done for 20th Century Fox under the auspices of Lucasfilm. Raiders was still a Lucasfilm production, but for Paramount. They made a few more films for Paramount, before MGM and Universal and suddenly the VFX Vendor System was how we worked. This system is the fundamental flaw to visual effects as a business, though it did not become apparent for many years."

June 6, 2011

Observation on the Jap Cg industry.

Just back from Japan and had a conversation with the an ex colleague over there about the state of affairs in animation. He just had a talk with a couple of schools and the students the night I arrived in Tokyo.

It seems like everywhere in the world, there is a severe lack of competent cg people out there. And not only competent, even just people with the mindset with the proper mindset to survive in this industry.

May 2, 2011

*Ahem* "Our dying Animation industry"

I came across this recent post recently about our *ahem* dying animation industry.

One of the paragraph below.

4 years ago, I, like many other animator- wannabes, joined the bandwagon of a series of upcoming courses that promised us a lot of things. They promised us that if we take their diplomas, their certificates, we will join the ranks of animators around the world. With honeyed words, advertisements and more, me and my cohorts were misled and fell into a trap, a conspiracy."

 He is bitter that what was promised to him didn't appear after he followed the prescribed steps. And he start blaming the school. And what is most funny and insulting at the same time is the phrase "Unlike most polytechnic students, I and my like-minded friends saw animation not as a fan-boy obsession but a true career."

 If this dude was serious about animation, he wouldn't have need to be convinced by *ahem* honeyed words and advertisement. And at the same time, he just dissed his own classmates by saying they treat animation as a fan boy obsession.

April 9, 2011

Professional - Perspectives on Work - Takehiko Inoue Subbed

You write about yourself when making a story. If you are unfamiliar with a subject matter,  you can't write about it. As a result, all you can do is pull out the wisdom, beliefs and truths that resides deep within. - Takehiko Inoue

This is a Japanese documentary about Takehiko Inoue. "A very inspirational show that focuses on work ethic, career development and pursuing one's dream. The show follows an individual who is at the top of their industry and briefly delves into why this person is successful." (Part one is embedded below.)

April 3, 2011

It kinda of explains the reasons I feel like a 2nd class citizen in my own fucking country.

Nothing directly related to CG/3D but this post really struck a chord with me. 

" Our political elite decided long ago that the best solution to the problem of "The little island that could" was to have a powerful government, ruled by the PAP that is for all intents and purposes, THE government. And this government, presumably staffed with the most talented people, would run the country in the best way possible. And politically, this government would be unfettered by irksome little opposition parties that in more democratic inefficient countries, would have to be dealt with, or heaven forbid, accommodated."

March 22, 2011

Visual discipline and training the critical eye. AKA I hate drawing! Why do I need to do it if I am doing 3D? Part 2

Continuing from this post

  The distinctive disadvantage that the average student in the local primary and secondary schools is that art is placed very low in priority in the curriculum compared to mathematic, science etc... And even drawing is also a repeated process of copying their favorite cartoon or comic characters. It is not a gripe but more of a reality check. The really driven ones will push themselves to educate themselves.

  The good and positive news is that I have seen that once they understand why and how they are drawing, most student's skills will dramatically improve over a few months. But it will take a few years of building up their visual instinct.

Visual Discipline

  No one is born to draw, even the most talented artists. They may pick things up faster then others, or their defination of form and structure is stronger then others. But it still takes time and dedication. You can only get better by doing it again and again.
  The word discipline is used is because you have shown discipline in committing to that line. The drawing u produced is the final result of a series of conscious decisions made by you the artiste. By creating that image, that picture, you have shown your ability and more importantly, your perseverance and willingness to dedicate yourself to accomplish it. And to the art director, to the potential employee, it says so much about you as an developed artiste. Rather then just a software user.

March 10, 2011

Visual discipline and training the critical eye. AKA I hate drawing! Why do I need to do it if I am doing 3D? Part 1

This is going to be a rather long post with a part 1 and 2. But it is not a rant for once. So bear with me. It should be worthwhile. There will be some iterations along the way to help shape it.

  A very simple but very crucial question posed by a student almost 1 year ago. Why do I need to do drawing if I am doing 3D? I can just model/zbrush whatever I want.

This is a question and bugged me for a very long time. I can understand why the question was asked and I understand the reasoning as I have experience it when younger before and since appreciate the importance of drawing. But I lacked the vocabulary to adequately explain the reasoning or justify it at that time. Except the lame answer that drawing is faster then modelling and also refining and helping you develop the hand eye coordination.

  This question keeps popping up when current students also complain about having to draw. And that it is tiresome. But all I could say was just stick with it, you will get better at it. But that isn't going to help the students easier to do life drawing. To them, its just repeating for the sake of repeating. And I hate to do something without knowing why.

  For those that love drawing, its not so much an issue but for the rest of the students who struggle, I could not motivate them to do it. How to present it in a logical and easy understand why they are doing it? And it sucks because I genuinely believe that you can teach anyone to draw. Even the weaker students who have trouble understanding or are slower in class. I was reading Betty Edward's Right side of the Brain and it reinforced how it can be taught but not really explain why should students have incentive to learn drawing if they are doing 3D.

local interview with Steve Wozniak at New Nation.

  Despite the rather misleading headline, this is an interview with Steve Wozniak. One of the co-founders of Apple who was in town to impart their knowledge and experiences on innovation solutions and applications for competitive advantage and business excellence” to eventually “build a more productive, high-performing work environment”.  (sic)

  Some excerpts.

" Ms Jose enthusiastically rolled out the reasons why Singapore should innovate, what the government is doing to help PMETs and why we should achieve innovation excellence.
Now you can start scratching your head. Innovation excellence? That’s like saying ‘creative best’ – and what marks the difference between innovation excellence and innovation mediocrity?"

March 6, 2011

Thoughts on the local animation industry in Singapore - For the Students

  I wrote a really really long post about the mental state of local students for the last few hours, About how pampered and sheltered we were/are. How gullible and lazy we were/are. How other countries' students are hungrier, that they have more to fight for, to live for blah blah. How this country and its education system caused the students to be this manner.

How much of what I just said was true or false. And that it was unfair to blame the local students. How the easing of immigration laws and foreigners not needing to do NS is causing a disadvantage to them.

  Then it started feeling like a damn lecture. And I hate lectures. Fucking fucking hate it.

conversation with a Student 2 about Visual Discipline

Short version of visual discipline after another conversation. Big ass long post coming up in the next few days.

hilscreate says:
 visual discipline
i was asking why learn to draw if you can model it in 3D.
 my boss told me today
 its visual discipline 

zs★ says:
 Can elaborate?

hilscreate says:
 Drawing is Interpreting a shape's form with lines and curves
 I.E Looking at a subject matter and Analysing it (Analysing is the key word here)
 After which you make a informed and educated decision by putting it down as a line. Whether you meant it or not, that line that you put down on paper, is a commitment to the decision that you are making. 
zs★ says:
 The way I see it is that it`s a kind of practice for your eyes to work
 seeing one thing and understanding what you see is two different things

hilscreate says:
Yes. The ability to analyse what you see, i.e shape, form, perspective and extrapolate from it.

Choosing a local animation school and the problems w solutions. part 2

continuing from here

DISCLAIMER (not the movie) : Most of these thoughts are gathered from my personal working/teaching experiences as well as talking to students, ex students, friends who run studios as well as friends who work in small and big studios as well as friends who have lectured. It is not based on published facts or figures. All comments are my own. No names of schools or companies are mentioned because I do not want a lawsuit and frankly I cannot be arsed to be sued.

  Having a chat with my ex-lecturer just now. And I think there are some more stuff to be said about the local education locally. Specifically animation.

  Fact. There is a HUGE gap in the quality of animation graduates that is coming out of tertiary education and the quality that is required in the industry to be hired. And that includes technical and artistic level.

Fact. You know Singapore love to blow its own trumpet. Number 1 in this, Best in that. As long as there is something that can be blown, it will be blown as long as it gets them paid and/or laid. (haha.....yes. innuendo intended.)

 That is why you will never see any published statistical chart being shown how many percentage of  graduates are hired DIRECTLY after graduation. Its grim reading and a huge lost in face.(Singapore is huge on surveys. Whether they get revealed to the public is another matter)

  Unlike Marketing or Business Administration, there isn't really a ready industry for graduates to step into. So there isn't really enough of a demand to have the luxury for all graduates to learn on the job.

  Or a pool of good and successful experienced professionals that you can tap into since they will probably be working overseas if they are.

  Funny thing is similar courses like Communication Design or Motion graphic graduates are getting hired and quality of work is actually every high. And salary is actually decent. Again because there is a HUGE genuine demand and market for it.

And there fore a pool of people that you can tap and harness. And to be honest, the amount of technical requirement isn't that high. Photoshop and AE.

  You will be hearing about how much politics and bureaucracy is going on in the institutes. And let me tell you this, there is fucking heaps. But then, no more then other govt sectors. Its the nature of the beast and it comes with the territories. Its not at a level that for animators/artistes a level that is not accustomed to or comfortable with. I am not saying you should. I am just explaining the rules.

March 4, 2011

My one and only post about unions in Singapore.

Anonymous says:
hilscreate says:
 sup Anonymous
Anonymous says:
 what are your thoughts of starting an animation industry union in singapore?
hilscreate says:
 u been reading vfxsoldier ?
Anonymous says:
 that too
hilscreate says:
 nvr ever going to happen
Anonymous says:
 you think so too
hilscreate says:
 govt will nvr allow it and they are da law.
Anonymous says:
 it might hurt our image of cheap labor too eh?

conversation w a student 1

zs★ says:
hilscreate says:

zs★ says:
 I ask you ah
 Are employers very discerning about like
 hiring people who have proper training
 like people who have proper design and art training
 as compared to software monkeys who can churn stuff out?
 I`m thinking, would a company pay, say 2.5k or 3k to hire a uni grad in animation[like me, if I graduate], compared to a software monkey who learned how to animate
 and can do all sorts of tricks, and is only asking like 2k?
hilscreate says:
 u say leh ?

Dealing with failure.

  I was going to write about this but i recalled an awesome post written by another local 3D artist know as "The Hand" a few years back that was working as a part time lecturer as well.

And I could not write it better then him so I would refer you to his post HERE.

Some excerpts

"And then there are the unlucky few who struggles for everything- people with so little innate talent that everything seems like a herculean task to them. Simple concepts which most students can grasp quite easily are usually next to incomprehensible to them. Its not that they are not trying hard enough, but sometimes even the best efforts may result in nothing. I can understand exactly how they feel."

 "I suppose it might be a good thing for me to simply advise them to drop out- after all the fees are really expensive and the their chances never did look good. Some had hardly picked up a pencil to draw since they were a toddler.
But I don’t. I never did and I never will- because sometimes you just never know. Some may be late bloomers who just need a little more time. I guess it might be a fool’s dream, but I think everyone deserves a chance, even a fool’s chance.
So I just teach them like I would any student. By advising them to drop out would have been the equivalent of me quitting on them. How could I, if I taught them not to quit on themselves. The only thing I will do is to warn them of the consequences of not working hard and and not putting their heart and soul into what they do. I don’t believe being a CG artist is something that one could do if his heart is not into it. I don’t sugarcoat things for my students but neither do I want to crush their dreams. The only thing I can do is to like them know the truth. Its a hard industry to be in, but the payoff is you get to do something which you have always dreamed about."

February 28, 2011

Character Design Links over at Parka Blog.

Over at Parka Blogs, he have a whole list of art blogs on the internet that he compiled. Very useful links for character design references and inspirations for doodling your own stuff.


Also more importantly, he reviews art books! Lots of them. And most of the ones you want, I bet he have already reviewed!

Also is this really useful one for more character design. If you have any more links, pls post them below. Thanks.


February 27, 2011

Student's attitude part 1

A student really tested my patience last weekend with a really shitty attitude. Whinging why does she have to come in to school on a Saturday to attend a animation masterclass and why must she have so much work to do.

My 1st reaction was "How ungrateful is that? We arranged for a senior animator from a huge
animation studio to come in and give a master class in animation. Do you know how impossible it was during my time for that to happen?"

She sulked through the whole masterclass falling asleep dozen of time before taking her bag and walked off deliberating showing us that she is going off. She is not the only one, some other students sneaked off or didn't even bother showing up. I even have students not showing up the while semester and not even producing any work at all. I even caught them torrenting on school comps.

I love students like this. I really do.

Choosing a local animation school and the problems. part 1

DISCLAIMER (not the movie) : Most of these thoughts are gathered from my personal working/teaching experiences as well as talking to students, ex students, friends who run studios as well as friends who work in small and big studios as well as friends who have lectured. It is not based on published facts or figures. All comments are my own. No names of schools or companies are mentioned because I do not want a lawsuit and frankly I cannot be arsed to be sued.

How to choose an animation school if you are interested in going for animation? (Can I convince you to pick up accounting/banking/law/property development instead?)

February 24, 2011

Thoughts on the local animation industry in Singapore - Short courses

Previously on this post, I talked about the problems with the education model for animation in Singapore.

"The most critical flaw with the current model of having specialised courses just so that the students can get into Lucasfilm, D Neg is heavily flawed. Because all you are churning out students who are one trick pony following tutorials and step by step in doing a prescribed way of working. They are severely limited by the skillsets that they have. "

I want to add that the problems actually go down deeper.

vished posted a link from the online citizen website last year.

The part that stood out was "An individual whom I know on a professional basis recently graduated from a private animation school in Singapore under a government-funded diploma program. He was scathing of the standard of teaching (by a former graduate of the same course). It’s easy for me to criticize competitors but a specific claim this school makes is its faculties are current industry professionals. Clearly this is not the case but who’s going to complain?
The person I know said everyone passed their course and received a diploma when some clearly deserved not to. One of the reasons I believe what I have heard from this individual is because I know how the scheme providing the grants works. If the student doesn’t pass the course, the school doesn’t receive their fees from the government. If that happens, it’s bad for business."

Incidentally, this was a post written by the boss of another animated school in Singapore who also happens to run their own production studio. (loads of animation schools in Singapore eh?)

February 21, 2011

Cost of living and salary in Animation in Singapore.

DISCLAIMER : Most of these notes are gathered from my personal experiences as well as observation and talking to students, ex students and friends. It is not based on published facts or figures. All comments are my own rough gauge. I will not be responsible for you do not land a job here or you end up giving up a comfy job overseas because overquote or underquote a starting pay because of what I posted here.

In recent months I saw a rise in the number of people from Malaysia, Indonesia and the States on the blog looking at this post.

I bet this is a interesting topic for some people who are thinking of working in Singapore. Especially students from nearby countries who want to consider working in Singapore after graduation.

Also I have talked to some guys who came over from the States and also UK to work locally. And the most shocking aspect of it was how expensive it was to live in Singapore compared to the States or UK.

February 17, 2011

Children transform relative to their parents in Maya.

Simple but Awesome revelation from Malcom Gustave from www.ikfk.com who gave a masterclass in rigging.

It completely makes me see things in Maya so much simpler and helps understand offset groups and zeroing out groups so much easier to explain.

When an object in Maya is created, you can consider it to be parented to the world because it is taking its transformation relative to world coordinates 0,0,0.

So when a child is parented, its transformation values will be then relative to the parent and no longer the world.

THIS is the key to offset or zeroed out groups.


February 16, 2011

Parent vs Constraint Differences in Maya

From CG talk.


parent object

An object or other item that controls the attributes of one or more child objects. A parent can also be the child of another parent.

parent constraint

A constraint relating the position (translation and rotation) of one object to another object, so that they behave as if part of a parent-child relationship.

The parent constraint allows you to keep elements within their own hierarchy and not have them contained within a larger and hard to understand hierarchy.

January 18, 2011

Closure.. for now.

Its been a while since the last flurry of posts. A lot of contemplating the last few weeks and taking a short break while adding the finishing touches to the animation short.

Honestly it was getting a bit depressing writing those posts and listening to replies and comments. I got suck a little into feeling aggrieved with the situation.

My primary motivation to write was a selfish one. Initially it was an outlet for venting my frustrations as well as putting down my thoughts so that I can hope to find a answer to various questions. And that I can appease some guilt I have when some talented and hardworking graduates are having difficulty finding stable jobs while more schools are churning out graduates by the bucket load seemingly caring only about how much cash they can get from the students and government.

Initially I thought this was my way to help potential students understand what the industry is like. To examine themselves to see if they are good enough or have the initial ability to be polished or taught to be able to compete for a job.
If I was a supervisor reviewing reels of potential people to hire, I have to make an informed choice of who who be a good fit of the department and will work within the confine of the system. And everyone else essientially was " not good enough or too expensive or pain in the butt to work with, better luck next time".

I thought my responsibility as a educator was to train they to be at a level to be able to get that job. Or that 1st step in the industry. And not be the ones not selected.

And also questioning if I can continue my path into education and away from production work with a clear conscience.

It took an extremely enlightening talk by my ex-lecturer/now-boss to make me realise how arrogant it was of me to feel that way and how narrow my vision is. It is not just constrained or restrained to animation/vfx. I have become so small and less confidence at at the future of the industry in my own eyes that I could not move away from this and become angry or frustrated at the situation. Saying stuff like if you are not good or talented enough do not bother with animation. What does to all do?